At age 92, Henry Kissinger is a legend. Over decades, he has assiduously cultivated and constructed the image of the sagacious elder statesman. Corporate journalists hang on to his every word. Politicians seek his advice. But is the respect and reverence he receives deserved? He is one of the most notorious characters of this or any other period in history. Just ask the Kurds, the East Timorese, the Bangladeshis, the Laotians, the Chileans what they think of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate. But since they are “unpeople,” their opinions don’t count. When he was Nixon’s national security advisor, Kissinger displayed his kowtowing to power when he kept silent as his boss made anti-Jewish comments. When Nixon demanded that Cambodia be bombed, he conveyed the order like a good errand boy. It was Kissinger who once boasted, “The illegal we do immediately, the unconstitutional takes a little longer.”
Greg Grandin, professor of history at New York University, is the author of The Empire of Necessity, The Blood of Guatemala and Kissinger’s Shadow. A recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Public Library, he has served on the UN Truth Commission investigating the Guatemalan Civil War. His articles appear in the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, and The New York Times.
Arthur Panaro –
Dr. Grandin gave a frightening assessment of power politics. Am I correct to think I [ or anyone ] am helpless in the face of such power? It is sad to think indeed I am powerless before such a juggernaut, and think how whole societies and people become a kind of fodder for the wild beasts of the power structure.
Darek Shapiro –
Greg, thanks for placing the history of this man’s charismatic but destructive philosophy and actions in full view. I envy your students as you can show them how to do careful research with a passion for understanding the complexity of a difficult man. You explained brilliantly how H.K. worked his maniacally destructive ideas into the minds of the presidents. I understand and agree how you see he lead the destruction of the Security State and replaced it with a Jingoistic, irrational, kill first, dodge questions later philosophy.